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History of Vitamin C

History of Vitamin C

Written by Antoinette Foster © taken from her forthcoming book

 Scurvy has been with man ever since he lost the ability to manufacture Vitamin C some sixty million years ago. The Ebers papyrus, an Egyptian hieroglyph, indicates that scurvy existed in 1500BC, Hippocrates described a disease that sounds like scurvy in 400BC, and Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79) describes scurvy amongst Roman soldiers in Germany. Whilst it is fairly clear that horse do not suffer from scurvy it is very interesting to note that humans simply lost the ability to manufacture vitamin C and that horses have the ability to synthesize Vitamin C but clearly not a sufficient levels to sustain a high performance level.

 Vitamin C is the least stable of all the vitamins in its food hosts because it is very sensitive to oxygen and oxidises very quickly. Its activity is lost when exposed to light, heat or air, all of which activate oxidative enzymes. In the middle ages crude methods of preserving food led to the destruction of vitamins.

There is a definite link between stress and vitamin C loss, so the higher the level of stress the higher the requirement level of vitamin C. The effect of vitamin C deficiency on the microscopic structure of the tissue is well established.

Vitamin C is an essential co-factor for the hydroxylation of proline to hydroxyproline in collagen formation. Collagen is an intercellular ground substance, or matrix, that binds together cells in such tissues as capillaries, bone, teeth and connective tissue.

 In connective tissue, fibroblasts synthesise the protein collagen, which is excreted from the cell and then formed into extracellular fibrils, strands and bundles. In the absence of vitamin C, new collagen formation ceases and the supporting structures of the connective tissue collapse as the already formed collagen liquefies, cell walls become indistinct, and cytoplasm decreases. Similarly in bones and teeth the lack of osteoid tissue and dentine (in which calcium salts are normally deposited, prevents their firm development.

The structural integrity of the body depends on having sufficient vitamin c within your horse’s cells all the time. So there are two factors constantly at work. Firstly there are the nutrients that ensure the efficiency of the structure. Secondly there is the need to make the organ or tissue function.

 It is therefore true to say that ‘structure governs function’ and that ‘function governs structure’. Appropriate combinations of nutrients with vitamin C included as a high priority, combined with exercise to the level where the body organs function at their peak, are the most likely ways for the body to retain its body structure without deterioration. In the absence of Vitamin C, collagen becomes a watery liquid losing the power to support cells. Naturally when vitamin C is supplied this problem is rectified.

The greatest concentration of vitamin C is located in the glandular tissue, the adrenal cortex, pituitary gland, corpus luteum, pancreas, liver and spleen.

Any physical stress on the horse’s body such as injury, fractures, surgical procedures cause the cellular concentration of vitamin c to become mobilised, apparently to protect the body’s integrity as a living organism.

The role of Vitamin C in blood formation has also been clearly established. Assisting in the reduction of the ferric iron during its transfer from plasma transferrin to liver transferrin. It also increases iron absorption from the intestinal tract and stimulates incorporation of iron into haemoglobin. It may also be required for the conversion of folic acid into folinic acid. Vitamin C also stimulates white cell activity.

Allergies and Vitamin C

Allergies can disguise themselves with a multitude of symptoms. These symptoms indicate that the body is reacting to an invasion of the allergen and that an excessive biochemical response has been triggered. Stress equals allergens; as early as the 1930’s scientific research was undertaken to determine whether or not vitamin c was of assistance in controlling symptoms of allergies. Research has provided mixed views some saying they had great success others saying they had no success. However success it was discovered was dependant on the dose rate level been high enough.

If there is a hostile bacterium present proteins may go off within the intestinal tract causing the digestive route to be incomplete. The amino acid histidine may be converted into a toxic substance, histamine. The body may also create histamine due to the breakdown of body tissue during stress. Vitamin C has an antihistamine effect as it brings back into proportion the number of eosinophils, which tend to increase during an allergic reaction. A healthy liver has the ability to destroy histamine by using the enzyme histaminase. If the liver is damaged it reduces the chance of producing this enzyme.

A healthy cell will prevent toxic substances from penetrating the cell wall, vitamin c has the ability to strengthen the cell walls and literally make it impervious.

Vitamin C has the ability to detoxify unwanted substances that may cause toxicity, it is for this reason that vitamin C can be of great benefit and it is necessary to keep replenishing the diet to ensure its effectiveness.


There are three bioflavanoids rutin, hesperidin and aescin. Bioflavanoids are found in many fruits and vegetables, therefore if you are to use bioflavanoids as a support then it would be necessary to supplement the horse’s diet. Dr. Szent-Gyorgyi was the first to demonstrate the effect and benefits of using bioflavanoids by discovering that these substances have a very powerful effect on strengthening the body’s smallest blood vessels, the capillaries.

The veins carry the blood back to the heart for reoxygenation in the lungs; the arteries then circulate the blood to the rest of the body. This system is waterproof and the capillary system, which is the link between the tiniest arteries (the arterioles) and the tiniest veins (the venules) allows nutritious fluid to seep out of the blood stream into the fluid surrounding the cells. After the cells have used what is required the balance is pushed back into the capillaries by hydrostatic and osmotic pressure caused by blood and blood proteins. It is vital that the capillaries do not become too permeable, as this would cause the blood to leak into the intercellular fluid.

For example in a human if you can see bruising near the surface of the skin this means that the capillaries have become broken. If the capillaries were too porous there would not be sufficient osmotic pressure to move the accumulated intercellular back into the blood stream and at this stage oedema would build up. When part of the body suffers an injury, open wound or an infection the injury site swells with fluid. This happens because the capillaries pull apart to allow the white blood cells to enter the area and fight invading microorganisms.  Using anti-inflammatory drugs or diuretics may not be the best thing to do as this is simply slowing down the natural healing process.

It appears through many studies that bioflavanoids and vitamin C work closely together and can be of enormous benefit in treatment, as they are found in nature in conjunction with Vitamin C. Bioflavanoids appear to potentiate the action of vitamin C proportionately they are required in smaller quantities to achieve a result.

If there is a bioflavanoid deficiency the capillary walls become so porous that red corpuscles pass through them into the tissues. It looks very similar to that of a coarse sieve under a microscope. This situation allows invasion into the cells of unwanted toxic substances that will in turn cause illness.

I consider that Vitamin C is an essential nutrient and must be supplied through the diet, it is a wonderful supporting vitamin and Hi Form uses the safest form of vitamin C Calcium Ascorbate, which is gentle to the stomach. Vitamin C can be used with a number of vitamins to gain an increased benefit. If you require further information or advice on nutrition or finding the right solutions for your horse, whether it be arthritis, general joint soreness, lack of top line etc.

Please do not hesitate to contact 1300 HIFORM if you have any questions.

 For more information visit the Hi Form Web Site


Antoinette Foster Media Release


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